It's been pretty quiet here at Arcanotech for the last few months, and there's a very good reason why. I've been working and taking classes at the local community college, and they've been keeping me very busy.

First things first: I love my job. I work at a makerspace, and it's pretty much the coolest job ever. And my boss is amazing. But the coolest part? I get to learn how to use all the equipment. Over the past 6 months or so I've learned MIG welding, manual mill, manual lathe, 3D printing, CNC plasma cutting, and the ShopBot CNC router. I've also polished my woodworking skills. Here's a look at some meatspace projects I've been working on.

First up is the welding. Our CNC mill has been in dire need of better storage for its tooling, so I designed a shelf in AutoCAD to store the tool holders safely and accessibly. Then we got to work. Step one is calculating the materials needed; we decided on square tube for the base and angle iron for the tray frame, with 3/4" plywood as the actual tray so the tools don't get scratched. Once the materials were acquired, I cut them to size with a horizontal band-saw. The pieces were pretty rusted due to being stored outside, so I gave them a good scrub with a wire-brush wheel on an angle-grinder. Here's a before-and-after:

Then came the fun part: learning to weld. My co-worker gave me a quick tutorial (especially the safety stuff - we're big on safety here), and set me loose (while supervising, of course). It's not as clean as I'd like, but the welds hold just fine, and it's not expected to be in a high-impact environment. This is the finished product, sans tray. That's on hold until the ShopBot gets repaired.

The next big project is a new lefty body for my bass. I've been working on this for months, at this point, and it's coming along beautifully, if slowly. Again, I started with a design in AutoCAD.

After running it through V-Carve, I ran a prototype in particle-board on the ShopBot. (Not recommended, incidentally. It's hell on bits. Use MDF instead.) The design was too large for the particle-board I had available, so I did a quick'n'dirty glue-up:

Once it dried, I ran it through the ShopBot:

The finished prototype:

The prototype was a very good idea, it turns out, because there were some critical adjustments needed. I made the overall body thinner, since end-mill bits longer than 1.5" aren't really available, or all that stable, in the diameter I needed. That had the added effect of reducing overall weight, which is good, because white maple and purpleheart are heavy. I also increased the depth of the inlay cutout, which I'll get back to later as it ties in to another project.

Once the final design was done, I went wood-shopping. I was aiming for quilted maple, but they didn't have any, so I got white maple instead, as the resonance is close enough for my purposes. I also got some purpleheart, more for its resonant qualities than its color. I'm hoping the two combined will have a bright, warm tone. We shall see.

With the final dimensions in mind, I cut the wood to size and glued it together:

Once it was dry, into the ShopBot it went:

The end-mill was still too short to cut through all the way, so I ended up finishing it off on the band-saw and using a flush-cut bit on the table router to clean it up. This is where things currently lie:

The next step is to cut out the lower strap hole and hand-contour the body. Then I can sand it down, dye the wood in a black/purple starburst, and seal it. Finally I'll get some nice acrylic (or similar) and laser-cut the pick guard, then do the actual body install. I'd hoped to have this done by the end of the summer, but that's looking a bit too optimistic with how intense my summer classes are.

I had quite a bit of left-over material once the ShopBot was done, so I've saved it for other projects. One of those is a cell-phone holder, which was a Mother's Day present for my mom:

I'd like to make some fountain pens out of it too. My projects folder is getting pretty long...

I was very much not expecting to take summer classes, but as I'm a student employee and need at least 6cr to keep working, I managed to dig up a couple of good ones. The first is Internet of Things, or as I like to call it, "Embedded Systems for Fun and Profit." It's basically an intro to Raspberry Pi and Arduino, which I've always wanted to learn (mostly the hardware side; I've been doing the software side for over a decade now). The other is Small Metals Jewelry-making, which involves learning a lot of small-scale fabrication techniques. That was my primary motivation for taking the class, to be honest, although the actual jewelry-making is pretty cool too.

Both of these classes are project-driven, and therefore project-heavy. I'm trying to integrate some of them into the other projects on my list - for instance, the first Jewelry project is a small cold-connect piece, which I've chosen to size to fit the inlay pocket on the bass body. The plan is to have the pocket lined with small magnets, and attach more small magnets to the back of the piece. It's only 1/4" deep, though, so it'll be tricky. Which is good. I like a challenge.

IoT is responsible for quite a few of the recent additions to my projects list. I've always wanted to get into RC aircraft, and after getting sucked into watching FliteTest on YouTube I started wondering how hard it'd be to build my own RC control unit. It turns out it's not actually that complex, so I'm planning to make that my final project for the course.

This means that both Elysiad and Purple Prose are getting shunted to the back burner, sadly. I will get back to them, just not as soon as I'd like. Purple Prose will be undergoing a complete re-write, though, as I'd rather use something other than Python/QT. Right now I'm looking at Clojure/JavaFX, but that's not set in stone. I want PP to be cross-platform and light enough to run smoothly on older hardware, so I could probably get away with ANSI C and SDL if I really wanted to.

So yeah, this year's been a bit of a whirlwind so far. But I'm learning so much, and my life is full of interesting people. I'm making a lot of things, and as cliche as it sounds that includes friends.

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